´People of Iraq have spoken´ (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Audrey Hudson 01/31/05)
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President Bush yesterday congratulated millions of Iraqi citizens for
ignoring death threats and intimidation from insurgents and risking
their lives to cast historic votes during the country´s first free
Mr. Bush called yesterday´s turnout at polls, estimated at about 60
percent of eligible voters nationwide with higher percentages among
Iraq´s Kurds and Shi´ites and Iraqis living abroad, a "resounding
"Today, the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is
hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," Mr.
"Across Iraq today, men and women have taken rightful control of
their country´s destiny, and they have chosen a future of freedom and
peace," Mr. Bush said.
The president made his remarks from the White House just after 1
p.m., four hours after polls closed in the country.
Violence promised by terrorists came in the form of nine suicide
bombings and several mortar and other attacks that killed 44 persons
across Iraq, most of them in Baghdad.
Mr. Bush mourned the loss of Iraqi lives and American and British
military personnel killed yesterday and said, "Their sacrifices were
made in a vital cause of freedom, peace in a troubled region and a
more secure future for us all.
"In great numbers and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their
commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the
Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the
terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and
assassins. And they have demonstrated the kind of courage that is
always the foundation of self-government," Mr. Bush said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that some violence was
expected and that the election was "not perfect."
"But the Iraqis have taken a huge step forward. And they have hard
work ahead of them, but this is a great day for the Iraqi people,"
she told "Fox News Sunday."
Appearing on NBC´s "Meet the Press" in his first extensive interview
since his presidential election defeat, Sen. John Kerry,
Massachusetts Democrat, questioned the legitimacy of the election.
"It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq, but no one in the
United States or in the world — and I´m confident of what the world
response will be — no one in the United States should try to overhype
this election," Mr. Kerry said.
The Massachusetts senator also cast doubt on the legitimacy of the
election because of low turnout, especially among Sunnis, who are a
minority but were in power under the Saddam Hussein regime. Sunni
leaders called for a boycott of the election.
"It´s hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion
of the country can´t vote and doesn´t vote," Mr. Kerry said.
Asked by host Tim Russert whether Iraq is less of a terrorist threat
to the United States than two years ago, Mr. Kerry responded, "No,
it´s more. And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than
it was 2˝ years ago."
Mr. Kerry agreed that the United States is safer with the new Iraqi
government rather than Saddam in power, but repeated his campaign
criticisms that the United Nations should be fully involved "to
really make America safe."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, also downplayed the
vote, saying yesterday that Mr. Bush "must look beyond the election."
"The best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-
term designs on their country is for the administration to withdraw
some troops now" and negotiate further withdrawals, said Mr. Kennedy,
repeating his diagnosis from a Washington speech on Thursday.
Mr. Kennedy then called for an immediate announcement of a timetable
to withdraw American combat forces.
"At least 12,000 American troops, probably more, should leave at once
to send a strong signal about our intentions and to ease the
pervasive sense of occupation," he said.
Miss Rice said American troops will leave when their task is
finished — when enough Iraqi security forces are trained and prepared
to protect their new government.
"It´s heartening to see how well they have performed today in support
of these elections. And when they are trained and when we can step
back, you can be certain that America wants to stay no longer than
necessary," she told ABC´s "This Week."
"Our forces are there under a United Nations mandate. They are there
with coalition forces, because the Iraqis believe that they need
them. We´re going to be working with the new government to determine
how the security picture should look after these elections, but we
need to finish this job," Miss Rice said.
In an appearance on CBS´ "Face the Nation," Miss Rice cautioned
that "we all recognize the Iraqis have a long road ahead of them" and
that "the insurgency is not going to go away as a result of today."
Several Democrats also criticized Mr. Kennedy´s demands for a troop
withdrawal, with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, calling
"I think pulling American forces out now would be, quite frankly, a
serious mistake," Mr. Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign
Relations Committee, said on "Face the Nation."
Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, agreed with Mr. Biden, saying
that "to cut and run at this juncture would be a terrible mistake."
"We´ve planted our flag,´ Mr. Bayh said on ABC´s "This Week." "I
think that we need to be successful now, and unfortunately, that´s
going to require our presence for some time."
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said during an appearance on
CNN´s "Late Edition" that it was too early to talk about a troop
withdrawal, calling it "putting the cart a little bit ahead of the
horse." (Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. 01/31/05)
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